If you’ve ever wondered how to keep your food fresh and safe for extended periods of time, then you’ll want to know about oxygen absorbers. These little packets are designed to remove oxygen from sealed containers, preventing spoilage, mold, and the growth of harmful bacteria. By creating an oxygen-free environment, oxygen absorbers play a vital role in long-term food storage, ensuring that your favorite snacks, dry goods, and emergency supplies stay fresh and preserved for years to come. Let’s take a closer look at how oxygen absorbers work and why they are an essential tool for any food storage plan.

What Are Oxygen Absorbers And How Do They Help In Long-term Food Storage?

Understanding Oxygen Absorbers

Definition of Oxygen Absorbers

Oxygen absorbers are small packets or sachets that are used to remove oxygen from the air surrounding food products during storage. They contain a mixture of iron powder, salt, and an activator like sodium chloride or sodium carbonate. The primary function of oxygen absorbers is to prevent spoilage and maintain the quality and freshness of food for an extended period.

Types of Oxygen Absorbers

There are different types of oxygen absorbers available in the market, categorized based on their absorption capacity. The most commonly used types include:

  1. Type A: These absorbers are suitable for products that have low moisture levels, such as dried fruits, nuts, and powders.

  2. Type B: Designed for products with medium to high moisture content, including snacks, baked goods, and jerky.

  3. Type C: Ideal for products with very high water activity, like fresh and dried meats, cheese, and sauces.

Choosing the right type of oxygen absorber depends on the moisture content of the food you are storing.

Main Constituents of Oxygen Absorbers

The main components of oxygen absorbers are iron powder, salt, and an activator. Iron powder is the primary ingredient responsible for the absorption of oxygen. Salt acts as a catalyst, accelerating the chemical reaction that occurs within the packet. The activator, such as sodium chloride or sodium carbonate, helps to create an environment conducive to oxygen removal.

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How Oxygen Absorbers Work

Chemical Process Behind Oxygen Absorbers

Oxygen absorbers work through a chemical process called oxidation. When the oxygen absorber packet is exposed to air, the iron powder reacts with the oxygen, creating iron oxide. This process removes the oxygen from the surrounding environment. As a result, the oxygen level decreases inside the food storage container, thus inhibiting the growth of spoilage-causing microorganisms.

The Role of Iron in Oxygen Absorbers

Iron plays a crucial role in the working of oxygen absorbers. It acts as a catalyst in the oxidation reaction, facilitating the removal of oxygen from the container. The iron powder undergoes a chemical reaction with oxygen, producing iron oxide as a byproduct. This reaction continues until the oxygen inside the container is fully absorbed.

Impact of Humidity and Temperature on the Functioning of Oxygen Absorbers

Humidity and temperature can significantly affect the functioning of oxygen absorbers. High humidity levels may lead to the activation of the absorbers before they are used, rendering them ineffective when actually needed. It is essential to store oxygen absorbers in a cool and dry place to maintain their efficiency. Additionally, extreme temperatures can also impact their absorption capacity, so it is important to adhere to the recommended storage conditions.

Benefits of Using Oxygen Absorbers in Food Storage

Prolonging Shelf Life of Food

One of the primary benefits of using oxygen absorbers in food storage is their ability to prolong the shelf life of various products. By removing oxygen from the storage environment, oxygen absorbers create an atmosphere that is inhospitable to bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms. This helps to prevent spoilage and maintain the quality of food for an extended period, allowing it to be stored for months or even years without deterioration.

Preventing Growth of Pathogens

Oxygen is essential for the growth of pathogens, which can cause foodborne illnesses. By eliminating oxygen, oxygen absorbers create an environment that inhibits the growth and proliferation of harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli. This significantly reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses and ensures the safety of the stored food.

Maintaining Food Quality and Nutritional Value

Oxygen can oxidize fats and other compounds in food, leading to rancidity and degradation in taste, texture, and nutritional value. Oxygen absorbers help to minimize oxidation, preserving the quality and nutritional value of food products. By maintaining the freshness and flavors, oxygen absorbers ensure that the stored food remains enjoyable and nutritious.

Usage Guidelines for Oxygen Absorbers

Appropriate Quantity of Oxygen Absorbers Per Container

The quantity of oxygen absorbers required depends on the size of the container and the oxygen absorber’s capacity. As a general rule, one oxygen absorber sachet is sufficient for a one-gallon container. For larger containers, multiple sachets may be required. It is important not to exceed the recommended ratio of oxygen absorbers per container, as an excess amount can lead to the formation of a vacuum seal, which may compromise the integrity of the container.

Recommended Placement in the Container

To ensure effective absorption of oxygen, oxygen absorbers should be placed on top of the food items in the container. This allows them to come into direct contact with the air inside and absorb the oxygen more efficiently. It is crucial to avoid placing the absorbers beneath the food, as this may hinder their ability to absorb oxygen effectively.

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Sealing Procedures After Use

Once oxygen absorbers have been used, it is necessary to ensure a proper seal on the storage container. This can be achieved by using appropriate sealing methods such as vacuum sealing, heat sealing, or using airtight lids. Proper sealing prevents the re-entry of oxygen into the container, ensuring that the absorbers continue to work effectively.

What Are Oxygen Absorbers And How Do They Help In Long-term Food Storage?

Types of Foods Suitable for Storage with Oxygen Absorbers

Drained Canned Foods

Drained canned foods, such as canned fruits, vegetables, and beans, can be safely stored using oxygen absorbers. By removing the oxygen from the environment, oxygen absorbers help to prevent spoilage and maintain the quality of these canned goods for an extended period. It is important to ensure that the cans are properly sealed after opening to maximize the benefits of oxygen absorbers.

Dehydrated and Dried Foods

Oxygen absorbers are especially useful for preserving dehydrated and dried foods, including jerky, dried fruits, and powdered goods like milk or spices. These types of foods have low moisture content, making them susceptible to spoilage and degradation. Oxygen absorbers help to maintain their quality by creating a protective environment and preventing the growth of mold, bacteria, and insects.

Ground and Roasted Coffee

Coffee beans, when exposed to oxygen, can quickly lose their aroma and flavor. Oxygen absorbers can effectively help in preserving the freshness of ground and roasted coffee by creating an oxygen-free environment. This ensures that the coffee retains its original taste, aroma, and quality for an extended period.

Safety Precautions with Oxygen Absorbers

Non-edibility of Oxygen Absorbers

It is essential to note that oxygen absorbers are not edible and should not be consumed. They are designed for use in food storage containers only and should be kept out of reach of children and pets. Ingesting an oxygen absorber can be harmful and may cause choking or other adverse health effects.

Possibility of Choking Hazard

Due to their small size, oxygen absorbers can present a choking hazard if swallowed accidentally. It is crucial to keep them away from children and pets and ensure proper disposal of used oxygen absorbers. If an oxygen absorber is accidentally ingested, seek medical attention immediately.

Disposal of Used Oxygen Absorbers

Used oxygen absorbers should be properly disposed of to prevent unintended ingestion. It is recommended to place them in a sealed bag or container and label it as “used oxygen absorbers.” This will help to distinguish them from new absorbers and prevent any accidental consumption. Contact the local waste management facility or follow local regulations for the safe disposal of used oxygen absorbers.

What Are Oxygen Absorbers And How Do They Help In Long-term Food Storage?

Buying Options for Oxygen Absorbers

Online Retailers

Oxygen absorbers can be conveniently purchased from numerous online retailers. These retailers offer a wide range of options, including different sizes, types, and quantities of absorbers. It is important to research the seller and read customer reviews to ensure the quality and reliability of the products before making a purchase.

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Physical Stores

Many physical stores, including kitchen supply stores, supermarkets, and specialty food stores, also stock oxygen absorbers. Visiting a physical store allows you to personally inspect the product before purchasing and seek advice or recommendations from knowledgeable staff members. Check the store’s packaging date and expiry date to ensure freshness and effectiveness.

Things to Look For When Buying Oxygen Absorbers

When purchasing oxygen absorbers, there are a few key factors to consider:

  1. Type and absorption capacity: Choose the appropriate type and absorption capacity based on the moisture content of the food you plan to store.

  2. Packaging: Look for oxygen absorbers that come in vacuum-sealed packaging to maintain their freshness and effectiveness.

  3. Expiry date: Check the expiry date to ensure the oxygen absorbers are within their shelf life. Expired absorbers may not work effectively.

  4. Quantity: Determine the quantity of absorbers needed based on the size and number of containers you intend to use.

Common Misconceptions About Oxygen Absorbers

Oxygen Absorbers are Not Desiccants

It is important to differentiate between oxygen absorbers and desiccants. Oxygen absorbers are specifically designed to remove oxygen from the storage environment, while desiccants help to reduce humidity and moisture. Oxygen absorbers do not replace the need for desiccants in situations where high humidity is a concern.

The Heat Produced by Oxygen Absorbers is Normal

During the oxidation process, oxygen absorbers may generate heat. This heat is a normal byproduct of the chemical reaction and does not pose a safety risk. However, it is essential to allow the oxygen absorbers to cool before handling or placing them in a sealed container to avoid potential burns.

Oxygen Absorbers Do Not Absorb Other Gases

Although oxygen absorbers are highly effective at removing oxygen, they do not absorb other gases such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen. It is important to consider the specific needs of the food being stored and choose appropriate storage methods accordingly.

What Are Oxygen Absorbers And How Do They Help In Long-term Food Storage?

Signs of Proper Functioning of an Oxygen Absorber

Physical Changes in the Absorber

A properly functioning oxygen absorber may undergo some physical changes during the absorption process. These changes may include shrinkage or a decrease in size, indicating that the absorber is actively removing oxygen from the surrounding environment.

Visual Evidence in the Storage Container

When oxygen is effectively removed from the storage container, there may be visual evidence of the absorber’s activity. For example, the absence of moisture condensation on the inside of the container or rusting on metal objects suggests that the oxygen absorbers are working correctly.

Changes in the Stored Food

Proper functioning of oxygen absorbers is also reflected in the condition of the stored food. Foods preserved with oxygen absorbers should maintain their texture, taste, and nutritional value over an extended period. If there are signs of spoilage or degradation, it may indicate that the oxygen absorbers were not effective or were not used correctly.

The Effect of Oxygen Absorbers on Different Types of Food Containers

Glass Jars

Oxygen absorbers are suitable for use with glass jars. Ensure that the jars have airtight lids and that the oxygen absorbers are placed on top of the food, inside the jar. The oxygen absorbers will create a low-oxygen environment, preserving the quality and extending the shelf life of the stored food.

Plastic Bags and Containers

Plastic bags and containers work well with oxygen absorbers as long as they are airtight and able to withstand the absorption process. Ensure that the bags or containers have a proper seal and that the oxygen absorbers are placed on top of the food, inside the container. This will effectively remove oxygen and maintain the freshness of the stored food.

Metal Containers

Metal containers are also suitable for use with oxygen absorbers. Choose metal containers with airtight seals to prevent the re-entry of oxygen. Place the oxygen absorbers on top of the food, inside the container, and seal it properly. This will create a low-oxygen environment, ensuring the preservation of the stored food.

In conclusion, oxygen absorbers are a valuable tool for long-term food storage. They effectively remove oxygen from the storage environment, prolonging the shelf life of food, preventing the growth of pathogens, and maintaining food quality and nutritional value. By following the usage guidelines, choosing the appropriate absorber type, and considering the specific needs of different food containers, you can effectively preserve a wide range of food products with the help of oxygen absorbers.

What Are Oxygen Absorbers And How Do They Help In Long-term Food Storage?

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By Chris Wright

My goals with PreppingSurvival.com are to help you prepare your family for every day life as well as the things that pop up like job loss, storm damage, store shortages, etc. The better prepared you are for life, the easier survival becomes. Learn to thrive, not just survive!